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Lang AP 3rd Quarter Book Review

Period 3

March 9,

Opening her novel with three simple words, Lydia is dead, Celeste Ng propels readers
into her literary mystery crafted around the Lee family, a small town biracial couple and their
children living in Ohio in the late 1970s. Quiet, well-behaved, and studious, Lydia is the last
person anyone would expect to show up dead in a lake. As each remaining Lee family member
attempts to put together exactly what led to Lydias death, the story unravels into two
intertwining paths: a tale rewinding the events to Lydias past and the aftermath of Lydias death
on each family member as the so called balance of the family is tipped wildly out of scale.
However, Ng aims to tell a story that goes beyond the resolution of Lydias death.
Throughout her novel, she reiterates her theme of illusion vs. reality and the toll it can take. As
Dad Hoeger once said, Beauty is not alone. In the garden death resides too. Beauty, not
necessarily pertaining to physical attractiveness, is subjective to its audience. Each person finds
beauty in something different. Yet, no matter what is deemed beautiful or not, it is unmistakable
that beauty can be deceiving. Although something may look or seem one way on the outside,
theres always a darker hidden truth behind it. Like the death and sin of Satan that existed in the
Garden of Eden, a figurative death constantly lurks behind beauty. Through this, beauty creates
disillusionment, the same cold hit of reality that Lydia, her mother Marilyn, and her father James
fall prey to.
Tracing back decades to Marilyn and Jamess first encounter, Ng describes their love as a
life-changing miracle. However, the beauty in Marilyn and James love comes at a price. Facing
racial prejudice from every person who set eyes on the couple, including Marilyns own mother,
the inter-racial family would never be accepted. Before James, Marilyns goal was to become a
doctor. Forced to give up her dream to become a homemaker and take care of her two kids,
Marilyn soon grows to resent James, and in just a few years the magical love of the two is slowly
torn down. Little did they know how significant their story is to the demise of Lydia.
The epitome of a perfect child, Lydia was clearly the favorite of the three Lee children,
and her parents spared no expenses or feelings in broadcasting this to their other kids. Shes
friends with the most popular girls and could ace college level classes in high school. Or so her
parents thought. In reality, Lydia had no friends and was drowning in schoolwork. She either
cheated in class to get As or simply failed. She spent her entire life pleasing her parents, saying
yes to everything they said, and repressing her anger and defiance. Lydia lived a life of both her
parents failed dreams forced upon her yet she couldnt complain about it to her siblings who
were alienated by their parents since Lydia was the center of the universe. After her death,
Marilyn and James are forced to cope with the realization of the lie Lydia has been living her
entire life for them and understand the destruction they had inflicted on her.
Celeste Ng flawlessly captivates her characters inner emotions, dreams, and struggles
creating an extraordinarily perceptive insight for readers to truly understand the pain of each
family member. Through Lydia, Ng conveys that we cant create illusions for ourselves and hide
behind repressed emotions. Even though death may follow beauty we must face death head
on if we want any hope of overcoming our problems.

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